WAA Certification: More than Just an Exam

WAA-certification-logoRecently the Web Analytics Association launched a ‘Certified Web Analyst’ program. Although at first glance it may seem that passing a test is all that’s required, there are in fact some significant education and experience requirements as well.

It’s All About Credibility

In the works for two years, the program is designed as a ‘mechanism to elevate professional standards and recognize professionals who have demonstrated their knowledge of the web analytics industry.’  Cool…independent, third party validation that someone who is promoting him/herself as a web analytics professional actually knows his/her stuff.  Whether you’re in the trenches trying to be taken a little more seriously, a consultant trying to landing new clients, or just generally trying to advance your career, who can’t use an extra shot of credibility?

Writing the Exam

The center-piece of this program is an exam that applicants must pass in order to receive the designation.  Currently available only at proctored exam locations (eMetrics, similar conferences), pen-and-paper style, they’ll be moving to more widespread computer-based testing centers in the US and beyond throughout 2010.

Education + Experience Requirements

I initially had the impression from the promo emails, etc that writing the exam was all there was to it, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg.  Eligibility requirements include one of two combinations of education + experience:

1. High-school + 5 yrs online business experience, incl 3 yrs of web analytics.


2. 4-yr degree + 3 yrs web analytics experience.

Interestingly, there is no accommodation in the education requirements for the UBC Award of Achievement in Web Analytics , which has been offered for several years now in conjunction with the Web Analytics Association (which provides course content and tutors). In fact, 3 of the 4 courses in the UBC program (all but the intro course) comprise the body of knowledge that is tested in the exam…

Body of Knowledge

So, if you have (or are well on your way) to satisfying the education and experience requirements, you want to know what is going to be on the exam before you shell out your $600+ exam fee, right?  If you have taken the UBC web analytics courses mentioned above, you are in luck, as this material forms the basis for the exam questions.  If you haven’t taken UBC courses, or if you need to refresh your memory, the WAA has provided a very helpful document called ‘Knowledge Required for Certification‘ that provides an overview of the subject areas to be covered on the exam.

In fact, from quickly flipping through the 37 page document, I’d say it provides a nice overview of the kinds of things you should know if you are/aspire-to-be a web analytics professional – whether you plan to take the exam or not. It doesn’t cover everything in the web analytics universe and it is maybe a little heavily oriented toward the clickstream in a web 2.0 world, but the essential foundations of web analysis are there.


With the combination of education + experience + exam requirements, the weight of the WAA, and the top-shelf web analytics minds that have gone into establishing this program, it seems to me that this is more than just another certification.  I think it will prove to be a valuable program that represents a nice milestone in our industry.

I look forward to writing the exam and (hopefully) getting certified as soon as the opportunity arises, and hope the experience – and rewards – are positive for everybody else who goes for it.

Meantime, I’m interested to hear any thoughts from those who have taken the exam, plan to, or plan NOT to.

Gettin’ Certified: Google Analytics & AdWords

Observations on Google Analytics IQ and Google Advertising Professional Qualified Individual Exams

In the search marketing business we all work hard to deliver the goods and continuously improve our skills – we need to in order to  stay relevant in a rapidly changing environment and to demonstrate our value to our employers/clients.  We can let the quality of our work speak for itself, but  it can also be useful to have some more official validation of our general knowledge of our domain.  Which is where certification fits in.  Sometimes required by employers,  sometimes essential in establishing credibility with clients, and sometimes just good to have in the back pocket.

Recently I completed two certification exams in order to ‘prove my proficiency’ in the wonderful world of Google: Google Analytics Individual Qualification (IQ) and Google Advertising Professional Exam.  So I thought I’d share my experiences and observations with others who may be pursuing either or both of these designations.

Google Analytics Individual Qualification (IQ)

The Google Analytics Individual Qualification was announced on the Google Analytics Blog in March, 2009.  It is earned simply by passing the Google Analytics IQ test.  This is meant to prove that you have proficiency in using Google Analytics.  The idea is to separate beginners/casual users – who can, after all, make quite effective use of Google Analytics due its user friendliness – from those that leverage GA more fully to enhance organizational performance and teach others to do so.

In order to prepare for the test, Google offers ‘Conversion University‘, delivered via a series of free, short, on-demand online videos.  This is a pretty comprehensive look at most of the key features of GA and provides a good grounding in how to use the program.  It is useful to go through the videos even if you have no intention of the writing the test, especially because the broken into highly digestible chunks.

Although recommended, you don’t need to go through Conversion University to get to the test – you can write the IQ Test anytime.  It is delivered online at your convenience, costs $50 and you have 90 minutes to complete about 100 multiple choice questions.  Once you pass, they send you a colorful certificate that you can print out and hang in your cubicle. Ta da…


Google Advertising Professional Exam

The Google Advertising Professional Exam is one of the requirements for becoming a Qualified Individual in the Google Advertising Professionals program.  (The other requirements relate to mainly to maintaining a minimum level of AdWords account activity.)

Again, Google provides some thorough resources for exam preparation through the AdWords Learning Center.  The Learning Center has a series of online lessons in 9 sections that are available both as video or text lessons.  Personally, I focused on the text lessons, which I expedited by clicking on the ‘Print Section’ link to see the whole section on one page, rather than broken up into a bunch of short pages.  A nice feature of the Learning Center is that there are short multiple choice quiz questions at the end of each lesson, which helps to a) reinforce the learning and b) prepare for the exam, which is very similar in style and content.

As with the Conversion University, the AdWords Learning Center contains a lot of good information on getting the most from AdWords and is useful even if you are not planning to write the exam.  It does, however, also have a lot of information that may not be relevant to you – such as billing policies in foreign countries or tactics for ‘selling’ AdWords to potential clients.

If it is recommended to take review Conversion University prior to taking the Google Analytics test, I would rate is as HIGHLY recommended to go through the Learning Center – at least the quizzes – before taking on the AdWords exam.  When you are ready, you can jump into the exam via the ‘Pro Center’ tab in your My Client Center.

The AdWords exam has a bit of a bad reputation for being sprinkled with questions that are of limited relevance and/or trickily worded to create ambiguous meaning.  This was an assessment conveyed to me by both colleagues and others in the industry, such as the bloggers at SEO Speedwagon (which is the best seo-related blog name I’ve come across in a while).  While there were definitely some of these questions cropping up, I seemed to me that Google may have responded to some of the criticisms and tightened up the test to make it a more accurate reflection of professional competence.  Overall, I found it a pretty accurate reflection of the Learning Center – even to the extent of some Learning Center quiz questions showing up in the exam.

Bottom Line

Based on my experience, and discussions with colleagues, there is about 9-12 hrs of study involved in each of these exams, but may be less depending on your level of knowledge/experience with these programs.

Both Google Analytics IQ and Google Advertising Pro qualifications have an expiry date: AdWords offers a better deal because it is good for 2 yrs, while you will have to retake the Google Analytics IQ exam in 18 mths to retain your status.

Hard to put a value on these certifications but they do represent tangible evidence that you probably know what you are talking about and can enhance the credibility of yourself and your organization.  Hey, if you can get Google to vouch for you, why not go for it?